Hi everyone! This is the first in a series of guest posts from other writers I will feature on my site from time to time. I want to introduce Drew Cordell, the author of the article below. For those who don’t know Drew, he’s a new indie writer and I followed his crowdfunding campaign for Absolute Knowledge with great interest. I’ll admit that I was skeptical at first about crowdfunding a book’s creation…even vocally so. However, Drew’s response was a very professional, “Wait and see.” I’ll admit that I’m paraphrasing here a bit. Anyway, I did wait and I did see. I was blown away by Drew’s process and his success. Readers were legitimately excited about his new book, and the amount of positive impact the crowdfunding campaign had was tangible even where I was metaphorically standing.
Since then, I’ve become interested in crowdfunding. Even if I never use it, I would like to add it to my bag of tricks. What’s more, I think sharing Drew’s process and his success has value for the writing and reading community. I add readers to this intended mix because even before I was a writer, I used to geek out on behind-the-scenes writing stuff when I was a reader. Plus, I think it’s good if readers are informed so they can make the best decisions for themselves and their reading hobby in the future.
So without further ado, I’d like to introduce Drew and let his words speak for themselves. If you’re here, I hope you learn something. 🙂 -BC
Hello everyone, I’m excited to have the opportunity to guest post on Blaise’s blog and talk a little bit about crowdfunding with you. I recently self-published my first cyberpunk novel, Absolute Knowledge, on January 2nd after a successful crowdfunding campaign through Kickstarter. As a first-time author, I had little to no readership (400 followers on Wattpad). As a college student, I had little budget for cover design and interior design elements, and most importantly, I had no budget for editing. Without a readership, any money that I spent on my book was a gamble. If something went wrong, or my book didn’t sell, the loss was mine to bite. As a college student (Senior undergrad in Business Administration with a concentration in Innovation and Entrepreneurship) I decided to pursue crowdfunding as a means to finance my book.
If you don’t know what it is, crowdfunding is presenting your project to the public, asking for money, and if the project meets its financial goal, then the creator gets paid, and the financial supporters (backers) get the promised rewards for the tier they pledged at. It sounds simple, and you may wonder why creators would choose to finance their projects this way, but it’s quite simple. Risk mitigation.
Aside from the significant time commitment of running a successful crowdfunding campaign and planning everything out, the creator has low personal risk if the project doesn’t fund. For platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, you, as the creator, aren’t charged a penny if your project doesn’t fund. If your project does fund, then the fees are quite modest and can be worked into your reward pricing. It’s not to say that you won’t have to spend money for your crowdfunding project, you will, at the very least, need an edited blurb, a short (edited) sample of your work (think 1-5 chapters), and an appealing cover. I spent roughly $600 for my campaign elements out of pocket. Unfortunately, I didn’t leave a budget for a project video and ended up making my own crappy video that I’m still embarrassed by. If you can’t make a quality video, for the love of everything good in this world, outsource it. Trust me; it’s one of my biggest regrets from my campaign and it’s easily avoidable.
With good feedback from my beta readers that had read my book and a decreasing perceived personal risk in my project, I launched my campaign with a modest funding goal of $500 and no idea what I was doing other than the theoretical knowledge I’d learned from all my research. With a better video and more time invested, I may have raised more money, but my project ended with $1054 raised, enough to cover my previous expenses and a good portion of the other fixed expenses (expenses that remain the same no matter how many books I sell.). By funding through Kickstarter, I could see that a lot of people I didn’t know were interested in the product I was offering and that I had, despite having a horrible video, managed to convey that my project was worth funding, that I had something of value that people wanted.
When I launched my campaign, all that I needed to do to publish my book (self-publish which is a lot better in my opinion than traditional publishing for new authors) was final editing, and formatting my files for both print and eBook format. While this is a general overview of my experience with crowdfunding, I offer a much more in-depth series on my blog which covers everything from pricing rewards, estimating costs, and a lot more. If you google how to run a crowdfunding campaign, there are a ton of resources that are helpful, but even the ones made specifically for authors don’t offer a comprehensive resource and answer every question you might have. I won’t be able to answer everything either; I can only do my best to be as thorough as possible and share everything that I’ve learned. I can’t believe how many things I would do differently for my campaign, especially with transitioning from Kickstarter to a retail launch on Amazon.
Next time, I’ll delay my retail launch further out from my Kickstarter delivery to utilize customer reviews from my Kickstarter backers that I’d have for my retail launch. I didn’t do that with my launch for Absolute Knowledge, and if I did, I’m sure I would have experienced a better launch week, but I’m still very pleased with my launch, especially as an author that launched without an established readership or a blog following.
It’s always a little intimidating presenting your work to others, you’re anxious about what they’ll think, and you start doubting yourself. From what I’ve heard, most authors experience some form of self-doubt when releasing their first book, and maybe even all other books after that. But there is something exhilarating about hitting the publish button and sharing your creation with the world. It’s a humbling experience to spend a significant amount of time crafting something for readers then finally be able to share it. And while you don’t necessarily know the people that will want to read your book, you know everything about them. If you’ve done your research, you know your book’s keywords, you know your audience, and you know how to market your work (at least in theory). As with anything else, there is a learning curve in learning to promote your work effectively to reach new readers. As an author, you need to convince readers to read your work and invest their time in you.
Crowdfunding is different than pure sales. It lets you interact with your readers in a very personal way. They aren’t numbers or points on a graph, they aren’t sales metrics, they’re people. And with these platforms, you have the opportunity to talk with them directly, to thank them for backing your work, and to get to know them as people and not just sales figures. Interacting with new people that I hadn’t met through my project was one of my favorite things about running my crowdfunding campaign. It was such a cool experience to communicate with my readers directly and get to know them on a personal level. With crowdfunding, your developing relationships with your backers that will turn them into customers for life. Treat them well, and over deliver on your promises, and they’ll be likely to support you on all your future projects.
A couple of my backers were aspiring authors themselves, and I had the opportunity to share my experience with them and encourage them to follow the same route as me–to crowdfund their project before their retail launch. That experience impacted me so much that I now offer free crowdfunding consultation to any authors that want it. I don’t do this to sell books; I do this because I genuinely want people to succeed and want to make a positive difference in aspiring authors lives. By sharing the knowledge I’ve learned through my experience, I hope to significantly reduce the difficulty other authors face through their own campaigns. If you want help with your campaign or have a specific question about crowdfunding, please don’t hesitate to contact me, I’d love to hear from you.
I want to thank Blaise once again for having me on the blog as a guest and want to encourage you to reach out to me if you have any questions about crowdfunding or anything else writing related. I’ve learned a lot through my experience, and I’d love to share that experience with you.
If you’re interested in checking out my book, you can do so here. Absolute Knowledge is the first of a trilogy and is a mix of the cyberpunk and hard science fiction subgenres of science fiction. You can also read some more of my content and get a free eBook on my blog.